Reigning champion Josh Demuth solidified his place in AMA Arenacross Series history last season by capturing his third career Arenacross class title for Babbitt’s Monster Energy/TiLube Kawasaki presented by Maxxis. He entered 2011 as the favorite to repeat with a potent lineup of teammates behind him in Chad Johnson, a two-time champion in his own right, and Tyler Bowers, the winningest rider of 2010. However, just a few weeks ago, Demuth suffered a championship-derailing injury that ended any hopes of a repeat.
Assuming the role of favorite is Johnson, the 2010 Arenacross class runner-up and close friend of Demuth. With three wins to his credit last season, Johnson just missed out on his third championship. Now with one less rival in his way, his path to the 2011 crown is slightly clearer. Despite everything surrounding the upcoming season, Johnson is as focused as ever and as one of the veteran riders of the series, is looking to have some fun while chasing the title.
We caught up with Chad for the first installment of this season’s weekly interview.
As a result of the unfortunate injury to your teammate and friend, the AMA Arenacross class title is vacant and you are seen as the favorite based on your runner-up result last season. What are your thoughts about that?
“I’m totally bummed for Josh (Demuth). He’s a good guy and puts a lot of effort into what he does. Me and him are good friends on and off the track and I wish him the best on a quick recovery and hope he gets back out on the track as soon as possible. As far as coming into the season (goes), I’ve been riding and training and I feel good. Tyler (Bowers) was obviously the guy to beat last year speed wise and I’m sure he’ll be real fast again with something to prove.”
How has preparation been going for 2011?
“Everything is going really good. (Babbitt’s) was able to get some testing done earlier this year and I spent some time at home (in Wisconsin) riding my arenacross track before the snow started flying. Lately I’ve been over in Germany doing some races, which was a pretty good time, and in between that I continued to ride at my house and staying in the gym. Now I’m down here and Texas over the last couple weeks making sure my skills are up to par.”
It seems like since rejoining the Babbitt’s team, you’ve found that championship drive and form again. Would you say that’s true?
“Yeah, definitely. We were able to get back to (racing) 450’s last year, which is what I prefer. Denny Bartz and Eddie Babbitt’s run a great team and I have a great mechanic in Rob Goodwin. Everyone over there is just on the same page and we all move forward together.”
What do you think fans can expect this season in the AMA Arenacross Series?
“The racing is going to be great. A lot of riders that have been around for a while are coming back and some riders like the Blair brothers who used to be with (arenacross) before and are making a return. Guys like Kelly Smith, Kevin Johnson, Tyler Bowers, Gray Davenport, our new teammate (at Babbitt’s); there’s Jeff Gibson and a lot of other good riders who will be going fast. I’m sure it will make for great racing.”
How do you think the addition of two rounds to the schedule affect the championship battle?
“It’ll definitely stretch out the season a little bit more. It’s a tight schedule – we’re starting in January and don’t have a break until the season is done – so it’s a good thing. I like just rolling on and going through. Consistency is going to be key as it always is for us, but it’s just going to mean that much more.”
Who do you think your biggest challengers will be?
“You never know which riders will step up. Every season it’s someone. Some riders are able to get out front early and sprint. Some will be able to make the whole main event while others will get tired. And you always have your surprises every year that come in, whether it’s someone new or someone that was going ok last year and is really fast this year. You really just never know.”
What are you looking forward to the most?
“You know, I’m just looking forward to having a good season. I just want to go out and have some fun on the race track and enjoying myself at the races. Just riding my dirt bike because I love to ride it.”
How much would capturing that third career title mean to you?
“It would be awesome. I’d love to capture another title. In racing arenacross, it really doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”
The 2011 AMA Arenacross Series kicks off in just a few days from the BOK Center in Tulsa, Saturday, January 8 starting at 7:30 p.m. ET!